Fly the (Dive) Flag This Week – But Do It Correctly!
We’re in the middle of Florida’s “Dive Flag Awareness Week”. The event is designed to educate the general public AND dive industry about the PROPER use of dive flags. Chad Carney of FloridaSkinDiver.com writes that EVERY diver should take care to learn about how to correctly fly the popular red and white dive flag!
June 9, 2009 the Florida Governor & Cabinet proclaimed June 27 – July 3 the first “Dive Flag Awareness Week” and a future annual event, but it didn’t happen in the blink of an eye. The roots of Dive Flag Awareness started in March of 2007 after freediver Ricardo Araujo was killed when hit by a boat off Miami, Florida.
That summer, at the urging of concerned divers like Mike Hickey and Sheri Daye (2006 US Nationals spearfishing champs), Lt. David Bingham of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) began an enforcement patrol called “Wave the Flag,” and wrote 11 citations and 31 warnings for dive flag violations in Broward county.
Bingham’s message reached hundreds of divers at Daye’s “The Blue Wild Expo” which became a focal point for the growing Dive Flag Awareness cause. By summer of 2008 Operation “Wave the Flag” repeated and a petition drive to create an annual statewide event received much press, but fell far short. January 9, 2009 was a day to change everything… Rob Murphy was hit by a boat that afternoon while scuba diving and spearfishing off of Stuart, FL. and lost both his legs below the knees. Divers were outraged and the media responded with interviews of the ever optimistic Murphy.
In February, Lt. Bingham again lectured about the need for dive safety at “The Blue Wild Expo 2009″, and Murphy attended just 4 weeks after the accident. He was diving and spearfishing again within another month with the aid of prostheses and a dive scooter. Forums Spearboard.com and ScubaBoard.com rallied the divers and dive stores and this time the petitions for the Dive Flag Awareness Week would not be denied.
Lt. Bingham and the FWC are writing citations as we speak, and like he warned in previous years, many of the violators are not just boaters, they are also the divers! At The Blue Wild 2009 event, he pointed out that there were many illegal flags being marked by dive companies in attendance. The flags were either smaller than 12″ x 12″ for float use, or 20″ x 24” for boats, and many did not have a stiffener to keep them displayed. A search for good dive flag photos has proven that all too often divers either do not put them out or display them somewhere other than at the highest point, where their view is unobstructed.
Another illegal problem is that divers often fail to take their flags down after divers get out of the water. Sadly, many of the dive boat violators were professional dive charter operators. If you want boaters when not at idle to pay attention and stay 300 ft away in open waters or 100 ft away in rivers, inlets, or navigation channels, you have to comply by taking down the flag after diving!
“With bay scallop and spiny lobster season just around the corner, the FWC, our marine law enforcement partners, the governor and the cabinet members really want to emphasize the importance of engaging all safety precautions, including the use of divers-down flags,” Bingham said. “If you’re diving, display a flag. If you’re boating, look for the flag.”
And if you’re going to fly it, make sure you fly it correctly!
Capt & Instructor Chad Carney